miércoles, 11 de febrero de 2015

Down syndrome theory on Hobbit species doesn’t hold to scrutiny


The skull of Liang Bua 1. Courtesy Prof Michael Morwood, Author provided

Claims that bones found in an Indonesian cave are not the remains of a new species of extinct hominin but more likely modern humans suffering from a chromosomal disorder have been disputed by a new look at the evidence.

Last year Prof Maciej Henneberg, of the University of Adelaide, and his colleagues sparked intense debate among human evolution researchers when they published a pair of papers (here and here) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Henneberg and colleagues argued that the so-called Hobbits – known by their scientific name Homo floresiensis – were not a new species of early hominin but just small-bodied modern humans with Down syndrome.

It’s now more than ten years since a joint Indonesian-Australian team led by the late Prof Michael Morwood announced the discovery of the famous Hobbit fossils from the site of Liang Bua on the island of Flores, Indonesia.

Opinions about the significance of the fossils for our understanding of human evolution are generally accepted by the majority of the scientific community, although some researchers argue that the Hobbits are pathological modern humans.

But the Down syndrome argument does not hold on the basis of the evidence from the two lower jaws (mandibles) from the site, which belong to individuals known as LB1 and LB6, as we argue in a reply published this month, also in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Here we summarise the main points we make in our reply. [...] theconversation.com

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